My note to remember to write about this was “Why am I afraid of posting sometimes?” I think you probably know why and you’ve probably had the same feeling. “Will I be attacked for posting this?” is what runs through my mind every time I find something interesting or when I write what I’m thinking about and what to share it, even this post! The internet and its offspring “social media” can be a dangerous family to be a part of but, generally, its positive aspects far outweigh the negatives.
Sometimes when I get online and read an article and the ensuing comments, I wonder if the whole world has lost its collective mind. It’s as if I’ve gone to a party on another planet where the host is from Mars and all the guests are from different cultures and speak different languages. If I found myself in this actual situation I would try to figure out the social rules and do my very best to get along with everyone in peace. No matter how hard I try, every time I think I’m politely opening the door for someone or offering them a piece of cake, I find that in their culture that is a horrible insult and they react violently, thinking I am just the utter end of rudeness. Reading what I just wrote, I think I’ve been watching too much Star Trek.
In reality, this is how I feel many times a week when I enter the internet in search of information or inspiration. I’m desperately trying to figure out the rules here but I’m confronted with anger and outrage at almost every turn. I even fall victim to it! “Why did my friend not ‘like’ my post? Don’t they see how important this is to me? Don’t they care? Obviously, I’m all alone in my thinking and everyone else out there is just ignorant and obnoxiously focused on themselves!” In reality, no one saw it for a number of reasons. One friend is on a vacation. Why would she be scrolling through Facebook to see what I’ve posted? One family member doesn’t really look all that close at social media. One co-worker is busy raising their own young children, focused on the reality of their home, not what I’m so concerned about posting. It’s like going to a party and being angry that the host is in the kitchen serving food instead of sitting with you over a cup of coffee. It’s not the time or place.
But here I am again, wondering about “the rules”. When I think I’ve got them all figured out, I say something to that effect and four people challenge my assumptions and offer their own set. Remember the “Dear Miss Manners” type, newspaper columns? I think the internet needs one of those but it needs to be a panel of young adults and older “tech savvy” types than can discuss and explain why it’s ok that someone comments with a picture of a movie or tells someone when they are clearly out of line and should probably dial back the aggressiveness. I’d read that every day, especially if it were quippy and fun.
My personal opinion is that the whole internet needs to lighten up a bit and maybe think about what they type in comments and who they are talking to. We all need to remember that at the other end of the line sits a human being with feelings just like you. You wouldn’t walk into the grocery store and make personal remarks about the person in front of you at the check stand. You wouldn’t come to a party by invitation and get loud and personal about the hosts choice of what to serve for dinner. You wouldn’t stand at your child’s school or at church and berate the speaker for not having the same feelings about a subject. Maybe we shouldn’t be doing that online either. Maybe we should try to be a little gentler and more polite. Everyone has those people that say and do as they please out loud and in front of everyone in their life, but offline, face to face, we just ignore that person. We don’t pile insult on insult, I think because we’re afraid of getting punched. But for some reason, when we are online, we feel safe in our home behind our device and take the opportunity to tell people how we really feel. To hell with manners! But does it get anyone anywhere on or offline? I don’t think so. It only serves to hurt people more, cause more dissension, and the injured party now has a written record of the wrongs done to him to go over and over again.
“Can’t we all just get along?” Can’t we ignore people that irk us or refrain from commenting on articles and posts we find so wrong? I think we can and we will eventually find new social rules for social media, but it will take a LOT of time and use. Our children will be better at it than we are and our grandchildren will be geniuses at it. In the mean time, I’m reminded of the honorable Bill & Ted: Go forth and “Be excellent to each other!”